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Dying Boy, Family Settle Suit Over Eviction in San Dimas

October 15, 1987|MARK ARAX | Times Staff Writer

A dying boy and his family, whose eviction from their San Dimas apartment last year brought a flood of phone calls from Hollywood stars and corporate attorneys offering help, have agreed to drop their lawsuit against the owner and manager of the apartment complex for an undisclosed cash settlement.

The precise terms of the settlement have been sealed by the court, and both sides refused to discuss any dollar amounts.

Last week, Pomona Superior Court Judge Peter Smith approved the creation of a trust fund into which the money will be deposited on behalf of the dying boy, 12, and his two sisters, 10 and 8.

Mary Jean Neault, district chief of the court, said the money will remain in the trust until the children turn 18. But because the boy, Chuckie Haney, is not expected to live until then, the court could approve the earlier use of his portion of the settlement, she said.

Barry Haney said he agreed to the settlement because the lawsuit--which sought $3 million in damages for wrongful eviction and violation of rights to housing for the handicapped--was taking an extreme toll on his family. Haney said he had suffered a nervous breakdown during months of depositions in which he, his wife, their three children, in-laws, friends and his former boss were questioned by a battery of attorneys.

"It just got too much for us," Haney said.

Jeff Valle, an attorney with the Los Angeles law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, which represented the Haneys at no cost, said the depositions were "very hostile and very aggressive."

Valle said Haney's recent layoff from his job as a truck driver for Jerseymaid Milk also contributed to the pressure to settle the matter out of court.

"Their financial situation is very precarious," Valle said. "The settlement negotiations were long and extremely difficult. A trial itself would have been tough on the family."

Attorneys for the manager and owner of the apartment complex were unavailable for comment last week.

The Haneys, who now live in Azusa, were evicted from the Daisy apartments in San Dimas in June, 1986, on the grounds that they had become a "nuisance." The family believes that Chuckie's progressive deterioration from a rare and fatal genetic disease--and the misunderstanding surrounding it--was a factor in their eviction.

Chuckie blamed himself for the eviction, believing that his disease frightened some residents of the apartment complex.

The Haneys' complaint alleged that the managers of the apartment, Kathryn and William Egan, intimidated Chuckie and the Haneys' two daughters with threats and obscene language. It charged that the eviction, carried out by owner John Konwiser, was unjustified and violated Chuckie's right to equal access to housing.

The Egans and Konwiser filed cross-complaints against the Haneys alleging libel and assault and seeking $10 million in punitive damages. They argued that the eviction was justified because Barry Haney had physically assaulted William Egan and continually watched or photographed the Egan children. Haney denied both charges.

Sheriff's deputies, who investigated the matter and found no evidence to support the Egans' complaints, said it was likely that misunderstanding surrounding Chuckie's condition was behind the eviction.

Both complaints were dropped as a result of the settlement. The Egans are no longer employed as managers, according to a Konwiser employee.

Chuckie's prolonged struggle against adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a disease that attacks the brain and nervous system, is in its final stages, according to his doctor. ALD erodes sight, hearing and coordination before it destroys portions of the brain and leads to coma and death. Throughout the disease's progression, Chuckie will remain aware of what is happening to him. Barry Haney said his son is now 80% blind.

"He's aware all the time," Haney said. "He's having pain. He describes it as electrical shocks to the head and eyes."

The Haneys moved to Southern California from Chicago three years ago to be near the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, a nationwide leader in the field of ALD research. Barry Haney had slept in the back of a truck for two months before getting a job and relocating his family here.

News stories about Chuckie's plight and his dreams of being a police officer have touched the hearts of President Reagan and several movie and soap opera stars. Reagan has written the young boy twice.

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